Wednesday, October 17, 2001

Program offers hope
to women inmates

The issue: The state gives female offenders
an opportunity to break away
from crime and substance abuse.

The state prison system's new approach to help women caught in the grim cycle of crime and substance abuse represents a change that could produce rewards for the community as well as the women themselves. The women would have a chance for better lives while the state's cost for law enforcement would go down, a win-win situation all around.

Governor Cayetano earlier this year called for a shift in philosophy toward substance abuse crimes, but the state Legislature rejected his proposal. The governor should revive the plan and lawmakers should embrace it because it makes far better sense to treat drug and alcohol abuse as a health problem rather than one for police and prisons.

The state Department of Public Safety should be commended for initiating the new program. It has contracted Hina Mauka, a substance abuse service that has had a strong record of success since it began in 1966, to provide 50 female offenders with intense therapeutic treatment. Instead of putting offenders in prison and releasing them back to the social environment that led them to crime, the program helps them cope with addiction and the domestic and sexual abuse many had experienced, provides vocational training and delivers support even after they released.

A recent study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University showed that states spend much to deal with substance abuse. Hawaii's costs were $368 per capita while the national average was $299. Of that amount, only 4 percent was used for prevention or treatment while the rest went law enforcement, prisons and court costs. At the same time, drug and alcohol-related convictions increased, mainly by repeat offenders.

Earlier this year, Ted Sakai, state public safety director, said the Hawaii's prisons are filled with repeat drug offenders and that without treatment, the majority will remain in the cycle. For female offenders, the cycle may have more far-reaching repercussions because many are mothers who tend to pass on abuse behavior to their children.

In 1996, Arizona began a program that deals with substance abuse as a health problem and requires treatment instead of prison for nonviolent offenders. The result has been a 60 percent drop in repeat offenses. With scarce taxpayer dollars in Hawaii for building more prisons, adopting such an approach would be fiscally responsible. It would also be more humane and better for the community.

Mixed messages irk
citizens on edge

The issue: State officials risk public ire
by issuing conflicting signals in
the campaign against terror.

Americans, being a shrewd and pragmatic lot, are willing and even eager to respond to instructions from the proper authorities in the struggle against terror. They are also willing to be scrutinized and searched if that means they and their neighbors will be secure.

But Americans will most likely be short-tempered, and rightly so, if they are given contradictory marching orders or if inspections anywhere from the airport to Aloha Stadium are bureaucratic nonsense with no evident purpose or reasonable explanation.

Security guards need be realistic in what to scrutinize, to tell citizens ahead of time what they must inspect, and explain to them why. The byword: No surprises.

Residents and tourists, here waiting to board an interisland
flight to Kona, are willing to endure long lines and
inspections if they are treated reasonably.

Not many days ago, a phalanx of military, National Guard and civil defense officials trooped into this newspaper with a clear message: Citizens, you are the front line soldiers in the defense against terror. If you see something suspicious, call the cops or the FBI. Do not hesitate. Err on the side of prudence.

As the anthrax scare spread to Hawaii, however, the director of the Department of Health, Bruce Anderson, complained yesterday that citizens had made too many calls to report suspicious white powder. "The situation is getting out of hand and we need to apply common sense," he said.

Similarly, a spokeswoman for the Postal Service, Felice Broglio, complained about disruptions caused by citizens suspecting anthrax power in the mail. "It's gotten ridiculous," she said. "People need to think about why they might be a target. Nobody's out to get people in Hawaii."

Common sense dictates that the Department of Health get its act together, and pronto, and check out every suspicious dollop of white powder. There is no way to know whether it is dangerous or not until trained people go find out.

What is ridiculous is the statement that nobody is out to get people in Hawaii. No one in the entire state has any way of knowing that. Surely, 99 percent of those in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 could as easily have said to themselves: "Nobody's out to get people in the World Trade Center by crashing airliners into the towers today." The Postal Service needs to go on high alert and respond to every suspicious sign.

These are perilous times. We must be at once alert and calm. Reasoned leadership by our officials would go a long way to assuring that.

Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, President

John Flanagan, publisher and editor in chief 529-4748;
Frank Bridgewater, managing editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
assistant managing editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, assistant managing editor 529-4762;

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